Farai Chideya, former host of NPR’s News & Notes, is an award-winning journalist who has worked for CNN, ABC, and most recently FiveThirtyEight. She’s covered every election since 1996 and written several books, including “The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption.”
Most recently, she was named a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, where she will study race and media coverage of the 2016 election.
On Friday, Chideya joined St. Louis on the Air ahead of a scheduled talk at UMSL’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration on Monday. At the event, she will be joined by KMOV reporter Justin Andrews, Brian Owens and the Deacons of Soul and several theatrical performances.
Much criticism has been leveled at how media outlets covered last year’s presidential election season, and Chideya acknowledged the truth in some – though not all – of these claims.
“That’s part of what I’m going to Harvard to study is just looking at exactly what happened with the election,” she said. “And I do feel that people are profoundly disconnected from many parts of American media.”
How can journalists heal the rift? Stay connected on a local level, Chideya said.
“We have to challenge ourselves to figure out not just how to deal with what’s going on in Washington but also what’s happening in people’s communities,” she explained.
The challenges facing journalists in 2017, Chidey said, revolve around questions of neutrality and the nature of journalism itself.
Some of President-elect Donald Trump’s statements during the campaign caused reporters concern regarding the expectations his administration would have for the role of the press, and the consequences of not abiding by those expectations.
“I do think that there’s a fork in the road for the American press,” Chideya said. “As a news organization leader you have to decide, am I willing to go without any significant access to the president for four years? If you are, then you can do a certain type of reporting, but if you want access then you won’t be able to do quite the same thing.”
Another obstacle to traditional news organizations highlighted during the presidential campaign was the increased availability of highly partisan coverage from websites often carrying fake news stories.
“I think there will always be fantastic journalists,” Chideya said. “But I am a bit concerned about what people even think the political press is…you can do great journalism, but if it’s not reaching people, you’ve still got a problem.”
Amidst an increasingly divided political and cultural landscape, Chideya warned against creating echo chambers that can cause both citizens and journalists to tune out the opinions of those with whom they disagree.
“We are going to have to come to a collective reckoning about what American democracy is,” she said. “I think a lot of the most powerful moments in American society happen on a local level.”
What: University of Missouri-St. Louis Presents the 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance "Dr. King’s Dream and Legacy Are for Everyone, How Will We End the Fear, Hatred, Violence and Silence?"
When: Monday, Jan. 16 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: University of Missouri-St. Louis, Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, One University Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63121
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.